By Kenny Howell
This is not something I will do every week, but I will check in periodically throughout the year on what the best conferences in football are. Or rather, who is No. 2 through No. 10. No. 1 is obvious.
1. SEC - People who are still saying the SEC is not the best overall conference in football are the same people that might be having trouble with whether world is flat or round. Two marquee games have not gone their way, but they were road games against two legit opponents in Clemson and Miami. Best wins so far are LSU over TCU and Alabama over Virginia Tech. Even Mississippi State, a team picked to finish 12th in the SEC making a game of it with the team picked to finish first in the Big 12, Oklahoma State, says a lot. People like to jump all over every loss the SEC has like if they don't win every non-conference game, they aren't the best. But against the Pac-12, Big 12, Big 10 and ACC since 2006 in bowl games, the SEC is 32-15. That's pretty telling considering the SEC usually plays against teams who finished higher in their conferences. The SEC and the Mountain West are the only still existing conferences that have won more than 50 percent of their bowl games in the BCS era. Until that changes, they will stay at the top.
2. Pac-12 - Has been the league that is closest to dethroning the SEC, but just doesn't have it yet. They just don't have enough of the elite teams, especially with USC falling off. I am not totally in Stanford's corner yet, but they are a step or two away from being a National Championship contender. And UCLA is on the rise it seems. Most of the rest of the conference is average to above average except maybe Colorado, so there is a lot of good competition.
3. Big 12 - The Big 12 is kind of falling on rough times, but so are most conferences. Two losses to FCS opponents in week 1, and Oklahoma State struggles with Mississippi State didn't help. Add that to Texas disappearing on defense against BYU. I think getting some fresh life on the defensive side will help the Longhorns. There is just too much talent. Oklahoma still looks solid, though their offense needs a lot of work. And Oklahoma State is still poised to have a good season. TCU looks in good shape as well, as they were able to play with LSU in week one.
4. Big 10 - Ohio State is holding up the front half, and Michigan looks like they could make some noise as well. Other than that, the Big 10 looks predictably weak this year.
5. ACC - Clemson, Miami and Florida State are all high quality teams, it's the rest of the conference that is average or well below average. Mostly well below average.
6. AAC - I am still not on the Louisville bandwagon. They beat a good Florida team last year in a bowl game, and more power to them, but I am not ready to crown them a legit contender just based on that. They still got whipped by Syracuse and beat by UCONN last year. You have to win those you are supposed to win. The rest of the conference except maybe Cincinnati and Rutgers can compete.
7. Sun Belt - Look at the little Sun Belt. They are becoming a decent, bad conference. Bobby Petrino will get Western Kentucky competitive, and Texas State with the built in recruiting base and a 2-0 record could become one of those small schools that surprise people. Troy and Arkansas State are traditionally OK teams.
8. Mountain West - The Mountain West was a power conference a few years ago, but Boise State has come back down to Earth, and TCU went to the Big 12. Fresno State may be the best team in the conference right now. The bottom half is really bad.
9. Conference USA - They lost a few teams, added a few more, but they are still really bad.
10. MAC - Bringing up the rear is the MAC, who have got a win or two against the Big 10, but that's about it. Once again, bottom half is awful.